Transcript: 'FOX News Watch,' July 7, 2007

This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," July 7, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ERIC BURNS, HOST: This week on "FOX News Watch," terrorism overseas and terrorism at home, terror in the newsroom, outrage in the newsroom over Scooter Libby's commuted sentence, are the media happy that husband and wife are together on the campaign trail, Al Gore's son pushes dad out of the headlines, a second chapter in the case of O.J.'s book and Judge Larry Seidlin gets a new gig.

First the headlines then us.


BURNS: On the panel this week are four people whose sentences will not be commuted. They will serve the entire 30 minutes. They are Jim Pinkerton of "Newsday", syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, Jane Hall of the American University, and media writer Neal Gabler. I'm Eric Burns. "FOX News Watch" is on right now.

Potentially lethal terrorist plots in London and Scotland dominated the news last week. Before that, plots were uncovered in this country that dominated the news and had as their targets, among others, J.F.K. airport in New York, the Army's Fort Dix in New Jersey.

Now today we note is the anniversary of what have come to be known as the 7-7 terrorist attacks in London in 2005 that killed 52 people and injured about 700. Will there be more such anniversaries? Well, a few days ago, al Qaeda's top deputy was seen in this tape calling on Muslims to unite in jihad and to support the Islamist movement in Iraq.

Neal, it seems to me that once the media gets started covering terrorist attacks, they do a good job but that they're a little slow sometimes at getting started. I wonder if instead of just reacting, it's time to start investigating in advance, and for them to play a different, more pervasive role.

NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: Well, I think that's very difficult to do. But here's an observation on the coverage this week of the London terrorist threats: you know the coverage I thought was very responsible, very even- tempered, very fact-based, very cool.

And I'm wondering if this isn't a function of the way that the British government responded, which was also very even-handed, very tempered, very cool. And in this country, and this is partly a function — certainly the fact that it's happening here and not there — when we get terrorist threats in this country, I mean they are hyped, there is hysteria. And is that a function of the fact that the administration hypes these things?

BURNS: But the coverage was with regard to the London attacks a little late in coming, Jim, both on all news cable and in "The New York Times."

JIM PINKERTON, "NEWSDAY": It was a little slow. And I think the reason is that while the press is pretty good at what you call the procedurals, the guy who went here, did this, did that, so on and so on. The larger context, which I think is where your question was leading, are civil liberties — are we exaggerating the importance of, say, Guantanamo as a source of atrocities, are we failing to understand the impact of immigration and multiculturalism and the clash of civilizations? Those kinds of questions, naturally, the left doesn't want to talk about it because they got us into this and they want to leave it there. And they don't want to get into it.


BURNS: Jane, hang on to they got us into this and after Cal.

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Your original question, I think has not been fully answered here. And I think it is the question to be asked.

The media ought to be investigating. They ought to be infiltrating. They ought to have their hidden cameras, their hidden microphones going into some of these Wahhabi-funded schools, some of these mosques which preach hate right here in the United States not just overseas.

BURNS: Yes, these are techniques that the media use on a lot of other stories.

THOMAS: Exactly, from bad food at Food Lion. That was a big ABC investigation some years ago. How about bad doctrine in some of these schools and mosques?

GABLER: But Richard Engel did precisely that on NBC this week.

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERISTY: I was going to allude to that. I mean first of all, I can't let stand they got us into this. I mean I think it was the Republican administration who got us into.

BURNS: They referring to the liberals.

HALL: Right.

And Richard Engel had a piece where it was chilling, where he…

GABLER: Exactly.

HALL: …the NBC correspondent, where he was interviewing people and they said basically al Qaeda used the war in Iraq as the world's greatest recruiting tool.

I mean I don't disagree with what Cal is saying. I do think that there is so much sort of hesitation to get into questions about who is here in our midst. And people are afraid. There's potential for fear mongering.

But meanwhile, the fact that these guys were doctors is one of the most chilling things. What do we do about that? What do we do about our borders? What do we do about our harbors? I think we do need to look at these issues.

PINKERTON: Jane, you sound like me.

HALL: I know. I don't disagree with you about that.

GABLER: But "The New York Times" did a four-part series on Muslims in America and how they're being integrated into America. So.

HALL: Yes, but they didn't do the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that may be in our midst.

GABLER: No, but Richard Engel did that.


PINKERTON: "The New York Times" did a four-part series and they didn't mention the fact that the Muslim imam in question was actually a radical anti-American.

BURNS: But just a minute, what we're doing her is talking about isolated newscasts, isolated reporting and isolated newspapers. I'm asking the question, Cal, and I think you were addressing the question about the media as a whole.

THOMAS: Right. It needs to be more proactive. Exactly right. And one of the things that needs to be done is set an historical context. We have had disinformation campaigns designed to communicate to the American people that the threat that is before us isn't really a threat going back to the founding of this country when people said, no, no, the British are fine. We don't need to separate from it. We had people like Charles Lindbergh saying Hitler wasn't so bad. We had people like Anna Louise Strong writing for a major newspaper saying Stalin's labor camps are so good for reforming humanity, people are lined up to check into them. This is the same kind of thing going on now. And we ought to be doing the some kind of investigative reporting on this that was done then.

BURNS: It's time for a break. We'll be back with this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Bush commutes Scooter Libby's sentence and the media reaction is fast and furious.




KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: And a president who lied us into a war and in so doing needlessly killed 3,584 of our family, and friends, and neighbors, a president whose administration initially tried to destroy the first man to nail that lie, a president whose henchmen then ruined the career of the intelligence asset that was his wife when intelligence assets were never more essential to the viability of the republic. A president like that has tonight freed from the prospect of prison the only man ever to come to trial for one of the component felonies in what may be the greatest crime of this young century.


BURNS: But Hillary Clinton didn't go so far as to call it the greatest crime of this young century. She went this far.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, D-N.Y., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we saw today was elevating cronyism over the rule of law. And what we saw today was further evidence that this administration has no regard whatsoever for what needs to be held sacred.


BURNS: Presidential Press Secretary Tony Snow went this far in response. He said, "I don't know what Arkansan is for chutzpah, but this is a gigantic case of it."

The it, of course, refers to Scooter Libby's commuted sentence. "Gigantic case of chutzpah", crime of the century.

Jane, what ever happened to somewhere in between, isn't it?

HALL: Well, I think so. And I have to say these are opinions.

When you look at the reporting that was done, the broadcast networks played it straight down the middle. They relied on a sound-bite from Hillary Clinton. Then they relied on the sound-bite from Tony Snow. The did — very few of them pointed out how many pardons Bill Clinton has made and how many pardons Bush has made, and how many — how this was about the rationale for going to war. Very few people pointed it out and anybody who did was accused of somehow being anti-George Bush.

PINKERTON: What is this, a touch of bias here and there? I mean for example Meredith Vieira jumped down Bill Crystals' throat on the Joe Wilson — after the case. CBS News.

HALL: She still had him on stating his opinion.

PINKERTON: Yes, I know. But then you trash him, fine.

CBS News said Libby Pardoned, which it wasn't a pardon. It was a commutation. I mean I think there was a fair.

GABLER: Give it time.


GABLER: Give it time.


PINKERTON: That's a fair point. That is a real point. But I would say the media made themselves very clear on this. They didn't like the pardon one bit.



BURNS: .lazy very often. Here they are saying pardon being ambitious. Then you criticize them.

GABLER: I think — look it, I'm going to knock him again right now. And I'm with Jane on this. I thought the mainstream media were very superficial on this. You know commutation of sentence, Republicans rejoice, Democrats snarl.

And I'll tell you this too, I think that the administration and its lackeys in the press were counting on that superficiality because this is a very complicated case. And they put out misinformation and even disinformation. And they knew that the mainstream media would not correct it. It would be left to the blogs and to people like Keith Olbermann and Dan Abrams. But the mainstream media wouldn't correct those — that misinformation and disinformation.

BURNS: But when the commutation was announced, wasn't the main story then, Neal, the reaction on both sides?

GABLER: No, that was not the main story. The main story was that Bush had made a statement, a statement, frankly, that was riddled with lies and errors. And if you're a reporter, even a reporter on NBC, ABC, and CBS, one of your jobs is to correct the lies for the record. You know he said he looked the probation board. Well, the probation board asked for 15 to 21 months not for no prison time whatsoever.

THOMAS: Well, all I have to say is that our long national nightmare is over.


THOMAS: Well, these things are always controversial no matter who does them. The media gets its knickers in a twist about people avoiding accountability. We had it with O.J. Simpson. We've got it with this case. We've had it with Ford pardoning Nixon.

And for Hillary Clinton to stand up and to say — to talk about avoidance of the law, I mean if that isn't the ultimate in hypocrisy considering what her husband did, I don't know what is.

HALL: But we're talking about the rationale for the case for war and the media being used.

THOMAS: That wasn't what this case was about.

HALL: . "The New York Times," the alleged liberal "New York Times" was used by this administration, which is what Libby was convicted of. That is different from pardoning Marc Rich. It just is.

PINKERTON: Jane just gave the game away there.

THOMAS: There you go.

PINKERTON: She said the Libby case was about the Iraq war.

HALL: It was, hello.

PINKERTON: OK, fair enough. You should repeat it. You're giving the game away. The point is.

HALL: The media didn't point that out.

PINKERTON: .the media could have covered the Libby commutation just as a commutation. And Bush actually sort of split the difference between no pardon and pardon.

GABLER: He did not split the difference.

PINKERTON: Actually he did. He left his felony conviction intact.


PINKERTON: But obviously the larger political context, which reporters and commentators can't escape from is do you like the Iraq War or not. If you don't like it, you hate Libby. If you like the Iraq War, you like Libby.

HALL: No. But I mean to have commentators in the media saying this is like Marc Rich. It is different. And it was not pointed out.


PINKERTON: Yes, Marc Rich was much worse because Marc Rich was.


THOMAS: He was an absconder.

PINKERTON: Marc Rich was a.


BURNS: And does it matter if the Marc Rich case was that different? In the actual first days reporting of this where I.

GABLER: Oh yes, it does matter. That's why I say the nuance is always the first casualty.

But let me tell you something here that I think really strongly is that this administration is never held accountable, not by the Republican Party and not even by the Democratic Party. And it's partly the job of the press now to hold them accountable. That's one of their jobs, Democratic or Republican administration.

BURNS: And you expect that to happen in the week ahead?

GABLER: No, because it hasn't happened in the last week. And it's never going to happen. And that's unfortunate. We're the losers.

BURNS: So are you.


GABLER: I wasn't going to say.

BURNS: Because we have to stop this conversation, take a break and we'll be back with our "Quick Takes on the Media." You left me exploited.

GABLER: Thank you very much.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bill and Hill hit the trail together. Has his image helped hers in the press? And little Al gets busted and steals Daddy Gore's media spotlight. Details next on NEWS WATCH.



BURNS: It's time for our "Quick Takes on the Media."

Headline number one, "On The Road Again." For the first time since she announced her run for the presidency, Hillary Clinton was accompanied on the campaign trail this week by her husband. It's been reported that the former president will show up often during the campaign with the possible future president. And does that assure Hillary Clinton more coverage, Jim, more favorable coverage?

PINKERTON: It seems to eliminate the negative from any coverage. I watched all the coverage last week and it just seems like if you're out there in a short-sleeved shirt, eating an ice cream cone, reporters go — their minds go to mush and they don't ask a single tough question or even raise a single tough issue.

BURNS: OK, Neal, agree?

GABLER: Actually I do agree with this. In point of fact, I agree. I think that Bill Clinton got very gentle coverage. And I'll tell you why he got gentle coverage because he'd get gentle coverage from the president after this administration.


THOMAS: He sucks all the oxygen out of a room. It's a blessing on one hand. It's a curse on the other because he shows her up in her bad spot to being non-charismatic and frankly dull.

BURNS: But is he getting her more coverage and might that overcome what Cal said — assuming what Cal said has some mock of a truth?

HALL: Well, I guess I'll have to go with that assumption. No, I think, you know, people are curious about them as a couple. This is a first lady running for president. He hasn't been in the spotlight. I think, you know, they've been afraid he would overshadow her. And they're going to use him sparingly. And I think Obama's ability to raise a lot of money is one reason when they'll bring him out and when they'll take him back. And that should be pointed out.

BURNS: You did.

HALL: Thank you.

BURNS: Quick Take headline number two, "True Confessions?" "If I Did It" was the name of the book that O.J. Simpson planned to release last year about the double murder of his ex-wife and her friend Ron Goldman. After a public and media outcry, publication of the book was canceled. This week the court appointed bankruptcy trustee sold the rights of to book to Ron Goldman's family. The family says they will rename it, "Confessions of a Double Murderer" and are reportedly already shopping the book and movie rights to potential buyers.


THOMAS: Absolutely. I'll buy the book and I'll pay a ticket to see the movie. I absolutely believe that O.J. Simpson — well, he hadn't paid a dime as far as I know or very little of the judgment against him. And I think the Goldman family is well within its rights to get whatever they can out of this.

BURNS: The change of title is .


BURNS: .a wonderful touch, isn't it?

HALL: Well, it is. And you know I mean it's a bizarre state of affairs when you have an auction of a book that is going to try to pay back a civil lawsuit. I think they were awarded $33 million and never collected. It is a strange state of affairs, but they're well within their rights.

GABLER: Yes, it's a big difference between O.J. Simpson profiting from his alleged crime and the Goldmans profiting.

BURNS: But the Goldmans giving the book a title that the crime not alleged.

GABLER: And they totally profit in a second way. They profit by getting out this confession of O.J. Simpson.

PINKERTON: It gets weirder and weirder because TMZ, the website, had some of the good stuff from the book, and they published that. And of course, the Goldmans are trying TMZ to stop them from publicizing it.

So I mean I've got to say that it's a little wrong for the Goldmans to be publishing this book at all. I don't think they should touch it.

BURNS: Because?

PINKERTON: Because it's blood money.

BURNS: But it can be their money.

PINKERTON: It's still blood money.


PINKERTON: I'm not going to buy the book or I'm not going to see the movie.

GABLER: But it gets the confession out. And I think that.


PINKERTON: Well, if they wanted the confession out, they should just let TMZ have it.

THOMAS: OK. Well, I'll buy two books and buy two tickets and that'll make up for him.

BURNS: What about fairness for O.J.? He wrote this book as a hypothetical.

GABLER: Yes, right.

HALL: Yes, right.

BURNS: What about O.J.'s ghost writer?

Quick Take headline number three, "An Inconvenient Youth." Al Gore, III was arrested in California on Wednesday on suspicion of illegally possessing marijuana and prescription drugs. He was pulled over by the police while driving his hybrid car, a Prius, at 100 miles per hour. His father, who has been in the media this week promoting today's Live Earth concert, had this to say about it on Larry King Thursday.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: We're treating it, of course, as a private family matter. We're very happy that he's sought and is getting the treatment that he needs.


BURNS: Jim, the media are not treating this as a private family matter. Should they?

PINKERTON: Well, I think that now that we know the facts, the kid was arrested, he's in treatment and he's going to face whatever legal trouble he faces, I think that's enough. I think the real story should be Al Gore and what he stands for not this poor young man.

THOMAS: Yes, I listened to Rush Limbaugh this week. And I — because of Rush's own difficulty with prescription drugs, he was very compassionate and he was very open about this. And he said he wanted to help in any way he could with his own experience with Al Gore's son. I thought it was one of those rare moments in the media where somebody of a different political persuasion could actually be understanding and compassionate. It's a good thing.

BURNS: But in simply in dwelling on it, is it the kind of thing we should report at length?

THOMAS: No, Jim is right.

BURNS: Even with compassion?

THOMAS: Yes, look, you shouldn't visit whatever perceived sins of son are on the father or vice versa.

GABLER: Roger Ailes, our boss, once said, "Politics stops at the family." And I think the press has been responsible in reporting the case but not overdoing it.

BURNS: Right. So what we need to do if everybody is all right, Jane, is take a look at coverage next week and see if it has stopped because we have the basic facts out and the assumption is that that's enough.

HALL: Well, you know if Al Gore decides to run for president, then I think it comes back on the table as one of many things. But not — I agree. I mean I think most people responded with compassion as they did to Jeb Bush's daughter. You know I think it is bipartisan and you shouldn't muck around with it.

PINKERTON: Al Gore, Sr., the former vice president wrote an op-ed in "The New York Times" calling for a 90 percent cut in CO2 emissions and greenhouse gases. Let's argue that and what that will mean for the 21st century not his son.

BURNS: Well, his son was speeding in a Prius.

THOMAS: Who knew it went that fast?


BURNS: We have to take one more break. When we come back...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He wept on the bench over Anna Nicole Smith. Now is he crying all the way to the bank? Judge Larry's new gig is next on "News Watch."



BURNS: Remember Larry Seidlin? He is the judge who presided over the legal battle over Anna Nicole Smith's body and did such memorable things as tell us where the body was.




BURNS: Judge Seidlin also told us what he would do for one of the attorneys in his courtroom who was thirsty.


SEIDLIN: I'm going to get you some juice.


BURNS: But he wasn't some kind of waiter in judge's garb. He was tough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEIDLIN: So don't test me.


SEIDLIN: Yes. I can fight a 10-round fight so don't test me.


BURNS: But he had a gentle side took, an emotional side and he wasn't afraid to show it.


SEIDLIN: I have suffered with this. I have struggled with this. I have shed tears for your little girl.


BURNS: Was there ever any doubt, after performances like that, that Judge Seidlin would remain on TV? According to the trade magazine, "Broadcasting and Cable," he is working with CBS Television Distribution to develop a new court show for television, which of course doesn't have nearly enough of them. If all goes well it will debut in the fall of 2008. It's a long time to wait to see the judge again. But we'll be back next week.

Thanks for this week to Jane Hall, Jim Pnkerton, Cal Thomas, and Neal Gabler. And I'm Eric Burns thanking you for watching.

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